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StoryChords set-up

Got a great memory about when the viol entered your life? Planning a trip to see a VdGSA veteran, and interested in hearing some of their stories about the early years of the Society? Please help the VdGSA by recording an interview for our StoryChords project! These interviews are part of a growing archive on the history of the Society.

Here are a few tips and guidelines for gathering interviews.

Once you've got an interview subject selected, all you need is a relatively quiet space to have a chat and a digital video camera (more on the cameras below). We've found that it's often useful to give your interview subject just a couple of minutes of "think prep" while you're setting up the camera—let them know what types of questions you'll use to start off (see below for some good samples to get going). One really useful thing is to have the subject get in the habit of always repeating the question you've just asked before launching into their answer. That way, we have the choice of editing out the interviewer's question itself and can instead just include the interviewee's answer, complete with question rolled in.

For example, ask the interview subject when they first began playing the viol. Prompt them to say, "I first started playing the viol when I was in college, and the Collegium director nabbed me in the hallway." Don't worry overmuch about this, we aren't looking for perfection in these, and we'd certainly rather have people speaking comfortably for the camera, instead of worrying about redoing sections of the interview in order to repeat the questions.


We have two cameras available to borrow, both of which are easy to use.

  • The Flip camera will come with the camera and tripod. It has a USB port "arm" that flips out to plug into a USB port on your computer. This is both how you charge it and how you'll transfer the newly created video files onto your hard drive.

  • The Kodak Zi8 camera will come with the camera, tripod, and external lavalier-style microphone, which optionally can be plugged into the camera to capture sound in hard-to-hear environments. This camera also comes with all necessary USB cords to transfer the files onto a computer, as well as an extra memory disk, should you need it.

    • CAUTION: If you decide to use the lavalier microphone with this camera, you must be SURE that it is plugged all the way into the camera, and that during the interview, it doesn't become loose! If you think it may have jiggled loose, take a second to readjust (we can always edit out your adjusting time)—we've found out the hard way that this is a necessary step to make sure you're capturing all the sound and picture you intend to!

When you first receive either of these cameras, it's worth it to do a couple of quick tests before launching into your interviews. Try recording a few seconds of someone talking, and then plug it into your computer to check the playback. That way, you'll not only ensure you have sound and the camera is actually capturing the expected field of view, you'll also gain experience with retrieving files off the camera! Note that each of the cameras comes with its original instructions in the box as well, which should answer any lingering set-up questions (but the general idea is that this should be a point-and-shoot type of scenario).

To borrow a camera for interviewing, please contact Historian Lisa Terry.

Sample questions:

Here are a few questions that can serve as a starting point—but we have no fear that there will be plenty to talk about once two viol players get going on a conversation....


And while we're of course especially excited about hearing memories and stories about early years in the VdGSA or Conclave, we are also thrilled to learn more about how our unique instrument has been, well, instrumental in people's music-making lives in general!

  • When did you first hear about the viola da gamba?

  • Why did you start playing?

  • How did you get your first instrument?

  • When did you first attend a Conclave and/or how many Conclaves have you attended?

  • What is it about playing the viol that you like the most?

  • What is your favorite viol repertory to play or listen to?

  • What effect has the viol had on your professional or personal life?

  • Are there any players or mentors who particularly inspired you?

  • What springs to mind as your favorite or most memorable thing that has ever happened at a Conclave you have attended?

  • What would you like to say to newcomers to the viol?

For more ideas, watch some of the videos in our StoryChords archive!

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